Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Statistical analysis of off-trade alcohol sales in the year following MUP

Public Health Scotland today [10 June] published data showing a decline in population alcohol consumption following the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing. Carried out in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, this study shows a net reduction, when compared to England & wales, in per adult sales of alcohol from supermarkets and off-licences of between 4 and 5 per cent in the 12 months following the implementation of MUP.

This work builds on an earlier report which described a fall in per adult off-trade sales in the year following MUP implementation. This new analysis strengthens these findings, by estimating the impact of MUP on off-trade alcohol sales, whilst controlling for underlying trends, seasonal fluctuations in consumption and other potentially important factors.   

The analyses compared and controlled for changes in alcohol sales in England and Wales – where MUP had not been implemented. It also controlled for underlying trends and factors such as household income. As such, it is reasonable to conclude that the reductions in volume of alcohol sold were due to the introduction of MUP.

In response to the study's findings, Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “It’s very encouraging to see further evidence that minimum unit pricing for alcohol seems to be changing our drinking habits for the better. A reduction of between 4 and 5 per cent in off-sales in the 12 months following the introduction of MUP is really significant. It is also clear that it is the high strength, low cost drinks, favoured by heavier drinkers, which we are drinking less of. This give real cause for optimism that MUP is having the intended effect and that it will improve - and save - many people’s lives.

“However, we can’t become complacent. While increasing the price of alcohol is one of the most effective and cost-effective policy measures to reduce alcohol consumption and harm, one measure alone will not be sufficient. In Scotland we are still drinking enough for every adult to exceed the Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines by a third on every week of the year. For some of us the pressure of lockdown and social distancing may mean we are drinking more.

“As well as ensuring people have access to services, we need to keep focused on longer term preventative action. These findings on minimum price show that the right policies can help to change Scotland’s drinking culture.  We need to build on the success of MUP with action to control how widely available and how heavily marketed alcohol is.

“The Scottish Government has a strong track record in tackling alcohol harm and they must continue to prioritise the nation’s health and wellbeing as part of our longer-term recovery from this crisis.”

Jim Lewsey, Professor of Medical Statistics at the Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, said:

“The methods used in this study allow us to be much more confident that the reduction we have seen in per adult off-trade sales is as a result of the introduction of MUP, rather than some other factor. Incorporating data from England & Wales into our analysis controls for any changes in sales in a neighbouring region where the legislation was not introduced. We’ve also been able to adjust for other factors, such as household income, sales of alcohol through pubs and clubs and of other drink types.

“This statistical method also allows us to take into consideration any existing trends and seasonal variation in the data, which may have existed independently of MUP, but which could have impacted on off-trade alcohol sales following its introduction. Alongside a range of additional analyses accounting for various other factors, we have demonstrated that the introduction of MUP was associated with a fall in population consumption of off-trade alcohol of between 4 and 5 per cent”.

Lucie Giles, Public Health Intelligence Principal at Public Health Scotland, said:

“The greatest relative net reductions were seen in sales of cider and perry, where the greatest increases in average price were also seen. There were smaller relative reductions in sales of spirits and beer – but as they account for a considerable share of the off-trade market, they make an important contribution to the reduction overall. These reductions were partly offset by off-trade sales of wine, fortified wine and ready-to-drink beverages, which this analysis found to have increased in the year post-MUP. Over the same period in England and Wales, per adult alcohol sales increased.

“This analysis of alcohol sales in the off-trade is one of several in our evaluation examining the impact of MUP on population alcohol consumption. A further statistical analysis considering sales in the three years following the implementation of MUP will be published in 2022”. 

Find out more about the study.